As more schools mandate shot, PNW says individuals should choose


Laura Mielke

Institutional Advancement Staff; Stephanie Hamilton- Annual Giving Coordinator; Graciela Alcantar- Scholarship Coordinator; Mackenzie Covault- Donor Communications Coordinator

More than 1,000 U.S. colleges and universities have mandated COVID-19 vaccinations, but Purdue Northwest University is committed to leaving the decision to individual students and faculty.


“We have an education mission,” said Lawrence Hamer, co-chair of the Safe Return Task Force. “Throughout the pandemic we have been figuring out ways to continue our mission and do so safely.”


The university requires students and staff to wear masks indoors, regardless of their vaccination status. And it has encouraged students and staff to get the vaccine, going so far as to offer weekly raffles for those who are vaccinated.


“We think it’s working,” Hamer said. “Students who came in last week to get vaccinated mentioned incentives.”

The university does not track the number of students or staff who have received the vaccine, unlike Purdue West Lafayette, which prominently shares vaccination rates. Last month, the West Lafayette campus boasted of an overall vaccination rate of 79% — and 90% for faculty. 

While PNW does not insist that students and staff to be vaccinated, the number of colleges and universities doing so has increased since the Delta variant proved to be more contagious. In Indiana, 16 institutions of higher education – including Indiana University Northwest and Valparaiso University mandate vaccines.


In Illinois, Gov. J.B. Pritzker required that all of the state’s public and private college students get vaccinated or undergo mandatory weekly tests. He announced the decision after the FDA gave its full approval to the Pfizer vaccine on Aug. 23.


Though PNW does not require vaccinations, it is ready to enforce its face mask policy.


The policy is clear: If students do not comply with the face mask requirement, they are asked to leave the classroom or other indoor space. If they refuse to leave a class, the class is dismissed. The students will then be reported to the dean of student’s office. Violations may result in students being placed on probation or suspended.


“We have not had to use any disciplinary action at all,” said Colin Fewer, associate vice chancellor for Student Affairs and dean of students. “Not once this semester or last semester.


“I overall have been pleased,” he said. “Walking the halls and in lounges I have not seen many students flaunting the mask policy.”


Brian Miller, director of public safety, said his people have dealt with no mask-related issues on either campus.

 “Walking through the buildings on campus we might … remind someone of our mask policy but even that’s rare,” he said. “Our dispatch center … stated they have not received any calls for service in reference to students not wearing masks or refusing to wear one.”


But Hamer said the university continually reviews its policies and COVID infection rates in the area and may consider other options if conditions worsen in the future. 


“If it gets to the point where we see vaccines need to be mandated, at that point we will make that decision,” he said.


One thing that may force a change in PNW policies is an expected emergency federal workplace rule that will require businesses that employ 100 or more people to mandate their employees either get vaccinated or submit to weekly COVID testing.  The requirement was announced by President Joe Biden on Sept. 9. Details about the rule have not yet been released.

“We are reviewing the information and discussing this new mandate with legal counsel to see if or how it will apply to PNW,” said Kris Falzone, associate vice chancellor of Marketing and Communication. “If it is found that this mandate applies to PNW, then we would require students to submit proof of vaccination or regular surveillance testing.”